You’ve seen them in your neighborhood, on the school track, or in packs on early Saturday mornings: the runners. Whether out for a stress-reducing lap around the block or training for a marathon, the benefits of running (and jogging) are enormous, but it comes with some risks. So how do you get that runner’s high without potential injuries? There are simple steps to prepare.
Why You Should Run
To counter chronic health challenges that come with a sedentary lifestyle, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services recommends adults get a minimum of 2-1/2 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. Running as little as 30 minutes a day not only checks that box but delivers a host of other benefits:
- Helps build strong bones
- Strengthens muscles, including the heart
- Increases blood flow and improves blood pressure
- Lowers LDL cholesterol levels
- Burns calories and fat
- Helps fight mental health issues such as depression and anxiety
- Can increase your life expectancy by several years
- What To Know Before Running
As with any exercise routine, always get your doctor’s OK before starting, and don’t push yourself too hard at the beginning. If you progress slowly and safely, it gives your body time to adjust and lowers the risk of injury. Regardless of your athletic level, always follow these five steps:
Get enough sleep. For your heart to perform at its best, it needs rest. It’s during sleep cycles that your body and brain reboot.
Fuel your body with a healthy runner’s diet. The night before running, build up your energy stores by eating high-quality carbohydrates and start your morning with simple foods such as oatmeal, grits, or fruit to provide quick energy. And drink lots of water.
Warm-up your muscles. A good rule of thumb is 5 to 10 minutes of a warmup that starts slowly, picks up the pace, and works all major muscle groups. Whether walking or going through a more structured workout, be sure you get your heart rate and breathing up to help move blood to your muscles.
Slowly increase your routine. For beginners, consider a walk/run routine at first, expanding running time as your body adapts. Increase your distance by adding sprints or elevation changes to grow your endurance and take advantage of improved physical efficiency.
Always include a cooldown. Also known as the recovery period, a few minutes of stretching and gentle exercises at the end of your run enables your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure to return to normal levels. It also helps you avoid dizziness, prepare for the next workout and remove lactic acid from your muscles — resulting in fewer aches and soreness.
Tips To Prevent Injuries
Like any exercise routine, running comes with the potential risk of injuries, but many can be avoided with proper equipment and preparation:
- To avoid blisters or shin pain, be sure you are fitted with proper footwear.
- Wear sunscreen and proper attire to avoid sunburn or bruises.
- Choose a path that is smooth and well-lit.
- Avoid overtraining or running without warming up first to prevent pulled muscle or strains.
Always follow general safety tips such as running with a partner (or dog), not wearing headphones, following rules of the road, carrying a cell phone and leaving details of your route behind. The addition of COVID-19 risk also means being mindful of spacing between runners and wearing a mask if crowded or indoors.